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Can Iraq Success Be Measured? Violence Down, But Questions

The Pentagon announced yesterday that all big signs of violence in Iraq have declined between 40 and 80 percent since February 2007, when the "surge" committed an additional 30,000 troops to service. In a report to Congress they were careful to note that despite the appearance of military, political and economic gains, conditions are "fragile, reversible, and uneven," with the possibility of high-profile attacks still problematic.

One of the most optimistic numbers shows civilian deaths have dropped from a high of almost 4,000 a month in December 2006 to about 500 a month as of May, with US troop deaths declining to an all-time low of 19 in May 2008. This positive report comes amid stories today of a blast in Baghdad that left 11 dead, including four Americans and six Iraqis.

This juxtaposition of news is reflected in a new report out today that criticizes the Bush administration's measures of progress in Iraq. To see why,


Going past the reports of overall violence in Iraq, a study done by the Government Accountability Office claims several crucial measures the Bush administration is using to measure success in Iraq are either incorrect or more nuanced than they're reporting.

Among this list are claims that the administration broadly overstates gains areas like the readiness of the Iraqi Army, electricity production, and how much money Iraq is spending on its reconstruction — on this matter the office was unable to prove the administration claims that Iraq had spent more than 60 percent of its reconstruction budget, their research showed 28 percent.

Overall the report pointed to being out of touch with the realities on the ground argued that the administration's plan has serious flaws in its operational guidelines. Do the reports of violence heading down, constitute success? Is it possible to measure success in war?


Join The Conversation
kh61582 kh61582 9 years
Why is it that all you anti-war whimps can't see any positive side to anything? If there is success going on now then you point to five months ago. It's like there is no possible way that the US military could ever do anything good and productive. The surge has worked. fact! The mainstream media is not reporting it because they, like yourselves, don't want it to be true, fact! This is your country too and you'd think you'd be proud when we are doing well overseas.
mazdagirluk mazdagirluk 9 years
Success measured? What is the definition of success? Is that the role of the GAO or the DoD (or both)? Do some reading for yourself- I find these documents interesting. GAO report dated 23 June 2008: "Securing, Stabilizing, and Rebuilding Iraq: Progress Report: Some Gains Made, Updated Strategy Needed" Read more: "The New Way Forward" outlines some interesting points on page 10 Table 1. Saying how things were at the beginning of the war and how views are now. DoD report dated June 2008: "Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq" Read more:
blondie01 blondie01 9 years
That is great info Jen! There's a lot of positive info that many (inlcuding the media) who are against the war choose to ignore-- as if they want us to lose the war in Iraq. :oy:
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
Jennifer - I get from all the discussions that go on here that anything but the immediate and total removal of all US troops in Iraq is unacceptable.
jennifer76 jennifer76 9 years
I find it interesting that we're about to hand over security control of Anbar province - previously one of the most violent and problem ridden areas - to Iraqi forces in the next week or so and the media has been completely uninterested in reporting on this. Anbar has been brought to a level of incredible stability since the surge and one would think that could count as a bit of a measure of success. Anbar is actually the tenth (of a total of 18 provinces) in Iraq that will now be completely under Iraqi control. That's more than half the country. And yet, not only is the media completely ignoring this milestone but the most vocal critics of the war continue to hammer away at the "uselessness" of Iraqi security forces and any acts of violence, no matter how isolated they are becoming. Is it possible to still find some statistics that make the situation look bleak? Apparently. But, like Mr. Twain said...lies, damned lies and statistics. Progress is being made. Even the report above makes the statement "security, political and economic trends in Iraq continue to be positive", but still people prefer to focus on anything that can be construed as negative. I think it's time to ask why that is. Why is it not good enough that trends on all fronts are positive? Why is it more important to hunt for the negative? And, conversely, if positive trends in all areas isn't well...positive, what would be? What is it that we would like to see that we aren't seeing now?
raciccarone raciccarone 9 years
It can be measured. Ask the people who are making untold profits and you'll get a resounding yes.
stephley stephley 9 years
Those last two graphs are unbelievable, totally disgusting.
Jillness Jillness 9 years
I am back to using good ol Jessica boyfriend was a little concerned for my safety having the realness of Jillness out there! ;) I found this article on Washington Post, and here are some things I found interesting. The report, after a bleak GAO assessment last summer, cited little improvement in the ability of the Iraqi security forces to act independently of the U.S. military, and noted that key legislation passed by the Iraqi parliament had not been implemented while other crucial laws had not been passed. The GAO report contrasted with a Pentagon report, dated June 13 but not released until yesterday. The Defense Department's quarterly assessment to Congress, "Measuring Security and Stability in Iraq," said that "security, political and economic trends in Iraq continue to be positive, although they remain fragile, reversible and uneven." In many respects, the two reports seemed to assess wholly different realities. The 74-page Pentagon document emphasized what it called the "negative role" in Iraqi security that Iran and Syria have played. The 94-page GAO report did not mention Iran and referred to Syria only in the context of Iraqi refugees who had settled there. The Pentagon said the GAO chose a "misleading" measurement of Iraqi security capabilities -- that only 10 percent of Iraqi units had reached full operational readiness. The GOA: The number of trained Iraqi security forces may overstate the number of troops present for duty. According to DOD, the number of trained troops includes personnel who are deceased or absent without leave.
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 9 years
Jillness you look like a mid-summer nights dream my dear.
Jillness Jillness 9 years
Wasn't there a female suicide bomber that killed 50 people the day before yesterday? While I think the violence is down, much of that is the result of a type of ethnic cleansing and 4 million Iraqis leaving leaving their homes. I think that focus on the violence is important, however it is not the only measure of success or failure. I am more concerned with the developments of the Iraqi government...but who to trust to paint an accurate picture? I do not trust the intellgence coming out of the Bush Administration. We already know for a fact that they exaggerated intellegence for their benefit and ignored other facts in order to make an agenda for the start of the war. Why in the world would anyone believe that they would put their personal interests aside now?
LaurenG22 LaurenG22 9 years
I just don't think enough Iraqis want to do this on their own... we can't be there forever. my husband worked with many iraqi soldiers and most he said had a poor work ethic.
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
I agree Stephley. Success in Iraq is dependent on the Iraqi government being able to function on their own. We are making progress to that goal, but we are a long way from there.
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 9 years
I believe that in War tactical success and political success can be measured. I'm sure that given the Bush administrations history of information disclosure their data on this matter is probably sugar coated. Fluffed or not however the fact of the matter is the surge was successful and continues to be. Now that we've applied pressure to the wound to slow the bleeding securing the region indefinitely is the Iraqis and our greatest challenge. I don't believe that the Bush administration is going to bother much with this part unless an action forces their hand. The administration is just going to sit tight until the next President is sworn in and say here take this and do something with it.
stephley stephley 9 years
As long as the decline in violence depends even in part on cash payments to various factions or factions staying in walled off communities, its too early to talk about 'success'. And I thought we waiting for the Iraqi government to handle itself and take control of making and keeping the peace, so there's really no success until that happens.
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 9 years
I have a relative serving over there, and he tells me first hand of its success, I am sure there are conflicting reports and the negative nellys out there that hate bush will find what they want to poo on our militaries gaining ground.
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